Beware the post office

Parcel not accepted at La PostePictured is one of two cylindrical parcels I took to the post office last week. Each contained a kitty toy for friends’ cats. Rather than wrap them in any old thing, I thought I’d do the right thing and provide properly packaged parcels that the post office would appreciate. One parcel made it as far as Annecy after four working days (La Poste has a tracking system on items sent around France: this item is not going to Annecy) and one made it to my letter box. The reason? Cylinders are not allowed to be posted anymore. So how did one get through? The post office man, upon seeing the parcels last week, explained that they roll, making it hard to scan the postcode. He said it wasn’t a problem for overseas items, but that the cylinder going to France would need to have chunks added to it to stop it from rolling. He even offered to do it — what a nice man. I thanked him after asking if he was sure and he said no problems – it was quiet and he was bored. Clearly, the parcel for overseas was a problem as that was the one that ended up back at my door.

Thinking the mix-up was purely down to someone reading the sender address instead of the destination address, I took the item back to the post office. The goth lady was working instead so I explained that the post office had accidentally sent the item back to me and could it please be resent. No, not now, she said.  It cannot be sent while it is a cylinder. She said I would need to change the shape so it wouldn’t roll. I asked if I could just drop it off after I’d made the manual change (thinking at the time it would have been easier just to do a bodge job with some bubble wrap and brown paper). She said no because I’d need to pay for it again. Er what? The postage was already more than the cost of the cat toy and she wanted me to pay again? The man last week accepted it so how was this my fault? She agreed but wouldn’t budge. It might only be a small amount of money, but it’s not the amount in question: it’s the way La Poste want me to pay for their mistake and inflexibility. The country renowned for its red tape really does live up to its reputation at times. Outstandingly bad for something as simple as sending a cat toy to a friend.

Thankfully, I’m going to England this weekend, so if I don’t see the man who served me last week before then to hassle him about it, I’ll take the package back with me. Extremely frustrated, I spouted off about it to friends. These are the reactions I got in just one afternoon:

1. French friend: “Yes, it’s stupid. I’ve lived with it all my life so I don’t know any different. I’m used to it. I can’t be angry.”

2. Australian friend: “Remember the string story! Parcel packaged up old style, brown paper with string. Post lady says no, string is ‘interdit’ (not allowed) but then 2 seconds later says yes it’s okay, it’ll just cost more!!! How is this possible? I said, you choose it’s either interdit or it’s not.”

3. American friend: “French customs held all of my household goods from the US ‘hostage’ and tried to make me pay 19.5% tax on stuff that I already OWNED…like my grandmother’s china….until my French boyfriend called them up and said, ‘This is France, not Nigeria’.”

4. British friend: “We were on holiday in Hossegor, sent a parcel to California, recorded, & guess what when we got back home (Bozel) it was waiting here! We took it to La Poste in Bozel & they said we had to go to the post office where it was sent from 700km to get our money back!!!!”


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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4 comments on “Beware the post office
  1. We have adopted attitude #1. Buggered if I’m going to have hypertension to deal with as well as the rest of it.

  2. Angela Williams says:

    Many people bad mouth the Royal Mail in England but I like them and I’m relieved when my online purchases come via Royal Mail as opposed to a courier service.

    When I buy online and the delivery agent used is Royal Mail I don’t worry about not being home because the postie puts a card through the door to let me know and I go to the sorting office to pick the parcel up. The postmen are brilliant, when I had my knee replacement and was home but moving slowly I made my way to the door when there was a knock expecting the postlady to have moved on, no she was there waiting because ‘I knew you had had surgery’. My current postman will knock on the door at the weekend and then move on if I don’t answer/am asleep, I’m near the start of his round, and then call again as he returns to the sorting office.

    Whereas…….I’ve had couriers throw parcels over the 6ft fence round my garden so I’ve got home to find a soggy cardboard box collapsed around the contents. I’ve had couriers leave a parcel with a neighbour and not bother to leave a card so unless the neighbour bothers to look for me I think the parcel has got lost and I phone the company to find it was delivered a week ago. I’ve had courier companies unwilling to leave a parcel with a neighbour so I’ve had to drive to their depots, one was in Norfolk a 2 hour round trip for me, one in Peterborough an hour round trip and St Neots a 2 hour round trip!!!

    When I visit the Post Office I get a totally different experience to your’s FP.

    One Post Office I used until I changed jobs last year was happy for me to take a sack of eBay parcels in first thing in the morning; the guy would process them in slow time when he wasn’t busy and I would go back after work to pay and collect my proof of postage paperwork. Good hey!?

    The village Post office I use now is friendly and very helpful. I had a box of books to send to Australia earlier this year and it was going to be pricey but the guy tried to find a way of making it cheaper, fortunately he knew his stuff and as soon as he learned it was printed matter the price dropped to a fraction of the original quote.

    We might not be good at some things but we still have a good postal service despite criticism.

  3. Ruby says:

    I was really happy with the French postal service. They impressed me when I was allowed to walk in with a 20kg huge box to post to Australia. There were no problems and it got home in a week, didn’t get held up at customs, didn’t get inspected, and the box didn’t have any holes. The Royal Mail won’t let you post a box over 5kg, and I think Australia Post is similar. You have to go through a special parcel procedure, not over the counter like I was able to in France. Hardest thing there was learning the right vocab to explain what you wanted to send!

  4. Wendy says:

    Ruby, you can send up to 20kg from Australia Post (I did last November).

    Angela, I wish I had such good experiences. Today, I received a package I sent from the UK last week when I was there, which was destined for Australia. It was sent to the sender rather than the recipient. Post offices and I are not getting on lately.

About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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